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Randy Travis: I’m ‘damaged’ after 2013 stroke

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Randy Travis gets frustrated as he tries to do things he took for granted before his stroke. Asked whether he is happy, the singer paused for several seconds. “Well … no,” he admitted. He then explained his frustration about his physical limitations

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Randy Travis was so near death after his 2013 stroke that he flatlined three times and doctors advised removing him from life-support, the country music legend and his wife revealed to The Tenessean in their most in-depth interview since the incident.

Three years and three months later, Travis returned to the spotlight for his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He stood throughout his induction and then stunned the room, singing Amazing Grace.

The road back has been grueling, Travis said during a wide-ranging 90-minute conversation at the couple’s upscale Nashville condo. Travis’ speech is halting, and he maneuvers around the residence in a wheelchair.

Asked whether he is happy, the singer paused for several seconds.

“Well … no,” he said, before another long pause. “Damaged.”

But his wife, Mary, who defied doctor’s advice and fought to keep her husband alive, predicts he’ll sing again on Wednesday night during an all-star tribute to the seven-time Grammy winner at Bridgestone Arena. Garth Brooks, Chris Young and Jamey Johnson are among the 30 artists who will pay tribute to Travis.

Although Travis is still working to regain his conversation skills, he can sing — at least a few songs.

“There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would,” she said. “I know the world, when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.”

Travis changed the course of country music in 1986 with the release of his multiplatinum-selling Storms of Life. In the next three decades, he charted 16 No. 1 songs and his traditional country baritone rang through hits including Forever and Ever, Amen, Deeper than a Holler and On the Other Hand.

“I can’t find another artist in any format in the history of music that turned a format 180 degrees right back into itself, a mirror of what it was, and made it bigger than it was before,” said Brooks, who has counted Travis among his biggest influences.

Added Brad Paisley, “Randy showed up on the scene with a voice that was both retro and fresh, songs that were brilliant and charisma that could never be duplicated.”

Randy Travis poses at a CMA Music Festival concert at Nashville’s LP Field in June.Travis has been hospitalized in Dallas with viral cardiomyopathy. A news release from the singer’s publicist says Travis was admitted to the hospital July 7. Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Travis performs on Day 2 of the 2013 CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Wade Payne, Invision, via AP Randy Travis performs at the Johnny Cash limited-edition “Forever” stamp launch on June 5 in Nashville. Rick Diamond, Getty Images A shoeless Randy Travis, far right, exits the Grayson County jail on Aug. 8, 2012, with two unknown persons in Sherman, Texas, after being arraigned on charges of driving while intoxicated and retaliation. Chris Jennings, AP Randy Travis performs at the May 2 funeral service for another country great, George Jones, at the Grand Ole Opry house. Rick Diamond, Getty Images for GJ memorial Randy Travis, left, and the Avett Brothers tape at The Factory’s Liberty Hall in Franklin, Tenn., on Oct. 24, 2012, for their performance during ‘CMT Crossroads.’ Rick Diamond, Getty Images for CMT Crossroads Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., hugs Randy Travis in her tent at the straw poll in Ames, Iowa, on Aug. 13, 2011. Andrea Melendez, Gannett Randy Travis and his wife Elizabeth arrive for the 43rd annual CMA Awards show in Nashville in 2009. Eileen Blass, USA TODAY Grand Ole Opry member Randy Travis, left, invites Carrie Underwood to be the newest member of the Grand Ole Opry on March 15, 2008. Josh Anderson, AP Dolly Parton and Randy Travis present an award at the 30th annual CMA Awards at the Grand Ole Opry house on Oct. 2, 1996. Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

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Hitting a brick wall

Lightly stroking her husband’s hand with her thumb, Mary Travis recounted, for the first time publicly, the first days after the stroke, describing them as “hitting a brick wall at 100 miles per hour.”

Travis went to the emergency room near their Texas ranch on July 5, 2013, complaining of congestion. His lungs were full of fluid, so he was transferred to a larger hospital, where he lost consciousness for the first time.

It was not until he came out of a coma days later that doctors realized he had suffered a stroke. Mary tearfully recalled being told that life-saving surgery would be required. And even with an operation, Travis had only a 1 to 2% chance of survival.

“At this point, the 1 to 2% chance is 100% chance over zero,” Mary says. “I prayed hard, ‘God, please let me have him back, any way, shape or form.’ ”

The surgery was successful and, following more than two years of rehab, Travis can now walk, shower unassisted and get himself dressed.

He remembers all of his song lyrics and can use his left hand to run the chords on his guitar neck. He’s still regaining use of his right arm and leg. He says it feels “good” to sing again.

Asked where he wants to be in his recovery five years from now, Travis smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

“I think our goal for five years is to remain hopeful and keep our heads up high and not throw in the towel and be happy with wherever God has us,” Mary said. “If it’s back up on that stage singing, hallelujah.”

Singer Randy Travis: Regaining His Voice — and His Life — After a Massive Stroke

By the age of 26, he signed to Warner Bros. Records, and he soon began racking up No. 1 hits. His first album sold more than four million copies, and he followed that debut with a string of top-selling albums.

Given his passion for singing and songwriting, it may come as no surprise that music plays a vital role in his rehabilitation.

When Travis was receiving therapy from Select Rehabilitation Hospital in Denton, Texas, about 35 minutes away from his ranch, he found he could remember the chords to his songs.

Although music was not an official part of their program, a woman named Tracy who worked in the marketing department at the rehabilitation center played a keyboard for Travis during her lunch break.

Because “Amazing Grace” had always been one of his favorite songs, Tracy tried to get Travis to sing along.

“I wanted to sing, and I tried, but the words and melody would not come together in my mind,” Travis wrote in his memoir.

Tracy, however, would not give up. After months of practicing and encouragement, they had a breakthrough when Travis sang a full verse from memory.

“There are some who can barely say a word but they can sing,” says Carol Persad PhD, director of the University of Michigan Aphasia Program (UMAP) in Ann Arbor, who uses a music therapy approach established by prior research, called Melodic Intonation Therapy (MIT), with some of her patients. “Music is one way to get back to words — it uses a different part of the brain from speech. That’s why Travis can sing ‘Amazing Grace.’”

“With Randy every fiber in him is music, so being back in and around music is very healing and encouraging for him,” says Mary.

In 2016 when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, he stunned the crowd in Nashville by singing some of the lyrics to “Amazing Grace.”

Randy’s now on a mission to “pass out hope” and show others that there can be life after stroke. He and his wife encourage survivors and their loved ones to stay positive, and explore the different options that may help a patient recover.

Because Travis has such a strong belief in the power of music, his Randy Travis Foundation devotes part of its efforts toward supporting music and entertainment education for at-risk children. The organization also raises awareness about stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

“Life doesn’t come with an instruction book and people don’t have an owner’s manual,” Mary says, “so just love each other to pieces, be patient, and keep fighting the fight.”

  • Country singer Randy Travis suffered a stroke in July 2013 that left him in a coma.
  • He later underwent brain surgery, and was in the hospital for over 5 months recovering.
  • He and his wife Mary are opening up about their battle in new interviews, and in his upcoming book, Forever and Ever, Amen.

Randy Travis has had a long road to recovery following the massive stroke he suffered over five years ago. Now, he and his wife, Mary, are opening up about the near-fatal incident, and how they’ve leaned on each other for strength.

Randy first went to the emergency room in July 2013 complaining of congestion, according to USA Today. He then suffered a stroke “as a complication of his congestive heart failure,” that left him in a coma with a 1% chance of survival. Randy underwent brain surgery, and then spent nearly six months in the hospital recuperating. Following the procedure, he had to learn to walk again and still has difficulty speaking.

A constant pillar of hope throughout his battle has been Mary, who he wed in 2015. In fact, it was Mary who was adamant about not removing Randy from life support when his health was at its worst, a new interview with Today revealed.

“Even in his state, his semicoma state, he squeezed my hand and he laid there and I saw this tear that just fell.” @randytravis’ wife Mary discusses Randy’s road to recovery after his near-fatal stroke pic.twitter.com/WeJkHwaOr3

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 13, 2019

“Even in his state, his semi coma state, he squeezed my hand and he laid there and I just saw this tear that fell and it was one tear at a time,” she said. “I just went back to the doctors and I said, ‘We’re fighting this.’”

Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life amazon.com

And fight they did—the Grammy-winning legend continues to improve his health, and just celebrated his 60th birthday. He’s even taken some steps back into the limelight, bravely belting out “Amazing Grace” during his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016 and releasing a new memoir in May 2019 titled, Forever and Ever, Amen.

But his outstanding career aside, what he and Mary are truly committed to is making the most of every moment they spend together.

“We make it a point to find something laugh about every single day,” she recently told People. “That makes all the difference in the world. Even through the tears sometimes, of sadness and defeat, you smile.”

Megan Stein Megan Stein is the senior editor for CountryLiving.com, covering entertainment news ranging from outrageous moments on “The Voice,” to the latest happenings with HGTV stars.

As country music star Randy Travis fought for his life in a hospital bed after suffering a massive stroke six years ago, his future wife prayed for a sign that he would emerge from his coma.

Doctors had given the singer a less than 1% chance of survival, leaving Mary Travis to search for answers over whether to take him off life support.

Randy Travis opens up about his life-threatening stroke

May 13, 201903:40

“Even in his state, his semi-coma state, he squeezed my hand,” she told Jenna Bush Hager in an interview alongside her husband on TODAY Monday.

Randy Travis, 60, details his road to recovery from the stroke, as well as the highs and lows from his successful career in a new book called “Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life,” a title borrowed from one of his hit songs.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

“Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis, $18 (originally $27), Amazon

Randy Travis underwent brain surgery after emerging from his coma in 2013 and spent nearly six months in the hospital. He had to learn how to walk again and has had difficulty speaking.

Two years after his stroke, the couple married in an emotional ceremony.

Randy Travis Sings Again, Three Years After Stroke

Oct. 17, 201600:50

“One of my favorite songs of his is called ‘Are We in Trouble Now?’ and it is a beautiful love song,” she said. “It was one that he was gonna sing to me at the wedding, but we play it all the time, and we kind of hold hands and cry.”

Randy Travis reached another milestone in his ongoing recovery when he stunned the crowd with his moving rendition of “Amazing Grace” in 2016 after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“It’s a special song,” Mary Travis said.

The book not only details the highs of selling more than 25 million albums, producing 22 No. 1 hits and winning six Grammy Awards, but it also opens up about the personal struggles that played out in public in the years before his stroke.

Randy Travis suffers stroke, has late-night surgery

July 11, 201303:13

Randy Travis divorced his first wife in 2009 and struggled with alcohol abuse while also suffering financially from poor business decisions. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated in 2012 after police found him naked by the side of the road following a car crash.

“He’s always owned up to his shortcomings and failures, but he has always risen above them, too,” Mary Travis said. “And he wants the reader to understand that there is mountains and valleys in life.”

Recently celebrating reaching one of those mountains when he turned 60 on May 4, the singer made an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville that warmed the hearts of his legions of fans. He was joined onstage by a host of country luminaries for a group rendition of “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

“What I’ve learned about him is that he hadn’t forgotten anything, but the world will never forget him either,” his wife said.

Randy Travis Still Unable to Talk, Walk on His Own After Severe Stroke

Randy Travis has made incredible progress since suffering a massive stroke, but his inability to speak or walk on his own has caused his wife to step in and handle his case against the Texas Department of Public Safety on his behalf.

Earlier this year, the singer sued The Texas Department of Public Safety to block the release of video of his 2012 DWI arrest, claiming the video serves no public interest, but is only used for “embarrassing a stroke victim.”

On November 27, Travis’ wife, Mary Travis, filed docs in the lawsuit seeking to be appointed Randy’s representative in the lawsuit due to his incapacity since the stroke. She’s seeking to be listed “as next friend” to Travis.

Mary explains, “Randy Travis was a victim of a very significant and severe stroke. Through his determination and bravery he has come a long, long way in his rehabilitation. Nevertheless, he still cannot speak. He cannot ambulate on his own. He needs assistance in many of his self-help skills.”


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She is pleading with the court to grant Travis’ motion for a permanent order prohibiting Texas officials from releasing the video of his DWI arrest.

Travis said he was “discombobulated” when he left his house naked in 2012 and wasn’t wearing any clothes. He would later be arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and sentenced to two years of probation and a suspended jail sentence, along with a $2,000 fine.

Mary Travis’ filing has not yet been ruled on, but will more than likely be accepted by the court.

MEGA

When Randy Travis went to the hospital in the summer of 2013, he had no idea how sick he was – or that life as he knew it would never be the same. Originally battling what he believed to be a respiratory infection, Travis was admitted to the hospital on July 7, and diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy.

Travis quickly became gravely ill, and placed in a medically-induced coma. While in a coma, Travis suffered a devastating stroke, with extensive damage to his body, in part because the stroke went undetected for more than 72 hours, until the doctors began to remove Travis from his unconscious state. The stroke impacted Travis severely, paralyzing his right side and taking away his ability to speak.

While Travis certainly has a long way to go, the fact that he can now walk, and speak, is nothing short of a miracle. The 60-year-old details his illness, and his determined road to recovery in his new memoir, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life, which he wrote with Ken Abraham.

“It’s amazing to me because Randy spent about six months in the hospital, in various hospitals, and about six weeks of that in some sort of coma,” Abraham told PopCulture.com. “And the doctors said, ‘He’s never going to be able to walk again. He’s never going to be able to talk again.’ You saw him walk in here today. He can talk and he’s Randy Travis. God’s not done with him yet.”

In Forever and Ever, Amen, Travis recalls the moment he went to the emergency room, after he had trouble breathing. Although he was sick, he had no way to know how much every part of his life was about to change. He writes, when recalling his admission to the hospital, “I didn’t know it, of course, but that was the last right-handed signature I would sign.”

Through it all, Travis’ now wife, Mary, stayed by him every minute, even though they were not yet married. Travis was given a one to two percent chance of survival, which was enough for Mary to cling to hope, praying that Randy would come back in “any way, shape or form.”

“That was my prayer,” Mary recalled. “And that was my discussion with God every single night. Five and a half months. Just give him back to me. Any way.”

Travis disappeared from the spotlight while he worked on his recovery and getting his strength back. So no one expected Travis to take the stage when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016, let along sing “Amazing Grace.”

“We didn’t tell anybody he was going to do that,” Mary recalled. “When I said I gave you back the voice of Randy Travis, we have friends that were in the audience, even from Texas, and there were like, ‘What is she doing? Has she lost her mind?’ They tell me that story. They said, ‘We just stood there and said, ‘Has Mary lost her mind?’ And he took that microphone and it was like he knew exactly what to do and how to do it.

Travis, who just appeared at his birthday celebration at the Grand Ole Opry, is still getting stronger, and hints that we might not have seen the last of him. But whether or not Travis is ever the way he was before his illness, Mary is grateful for the life they have together.

“I think every day you just hope that everything goes away and it’s all a bad dream and that this is not really what we expect out of life,” she said. “There’s no manual that any of us are given that prepares us for something like that. Because, as far as the devastation that a stroke and viral cardiomyopathy, they had already approved him for a heart transplant three days after we got to the hospital.

“There was so much that was coming at us so fast,” she continued. “I knew what I was praying. I just wanted him alive, and I didn’t care how it was. And this to me is just as beautiful as if he was healthy and whole and still on the road.”

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Purchase Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life on Amazon.com.

Photo Credit: Getty / Terry Wyatt

Three years ago, Randy Travis nearly died after being felled by a stroke.

Wednesday night, the seven-time Grammy Award-winning singer was up on stage with his dedicated wife Mary during an all-star tribute to his career in which fellow icons like Garth Brooks, Alison Krauss and Kenny Rogers sang his hits.

Randy Travis and Mary Travis at “1 Night. 1 Place. 1 Time.: A Heroes and Friends Tribute to Randy Travis” on Wednesday in Nashville.Laura Roberts / AP

But while being feted by 30 different artists in Nashville is a great honor, Travis (who with Mary spoke to The Tennessean) says he’s not exactly happy.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

“Damaged,” he said.

RELATED: Randy Travis stuns at Country Music Hall of Fame with ‘Amazing Grace’ performance

Travis, who scored big starting in the mid-1980s with his pop-inflected country tunes and rich baritone voice, spent the next 30 years landing 16 No. 1 songs including “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

Back in July 2013 he seemed to be suffering from walking pneumonia until a virus in his heart sent him to the hospital, where he flatlined and had to be revived. Not until after he came out of a 48-hour coma did doctors discover he had suffered from a stroke as well, and gave him a 1 to 2 percent chance of survival.

“I prayed hard, ‘God, please let me have him back, any way, shape or form,'” Mary recalled.

Randy Travis, surrounded by admiring peers and loved ones at the tribute, including Travis Tritt, Mary Travis and Ricky Traywick.Laura Roberts / AP

Travis fought back, though, and after much physical therapy and rehab is alive and well — though not wholly back to 100 percent. His speech, noted the paper, is halting and he largely gets around in a wheelchair. He remembers all of his songs and lyrics and can use his left hand to make chords on his guitar neck and said it feels “good” to sing again.

RELATED: Randy Travis released from hospital, moved to therapy facility

Though he did surprise the audience by breaking into “Amazing Grace” when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last fall, he didn’t seem likely to sing at the tribute Wednesday.

“There is a perfectionist in him that knows he’s not singing exactly like he used to that keeps him from enjoying it like I wish he would,” Mary Travis said in the article. “I know the world when they hear him, they can tell it’s Randy Travis, and the more he does it, the better it’s going to get.”

Randy Travis at a press conference before the Nashville tribute. Laura Roberts / AP

For now, they’re just going to keep pushing forward.

“I think our goal for five years is to remain hopeful and keep our heads up high and not throw in the towel and be happy with wherever God has us,” she said. “If it’s back up on that stage singing, hallelujah.”

Follow Randee Dawn on Twitter.

Four years ago, Randy Travis never thought he’d be able to sing again after a massive stroke permanently affected his speech and ability to walk. Since then, he’s made a few appearances, but stayed mostly out of the spotlight. That’s why we were so happy to see him step out of the shadows for the first time since his Grand Ole Opry tribute in February to make another inspiring comeback performance.

The seven-time Grammy Award winner made his latest appearance at Lil Red’s Longhorn Saloon in Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday, where he filmed a segment for the Penny Gilley Show. Even though he is mostly wheelchair bound, he was able to walk around the honky tonk bar with the help of his wife, Mary Travis, reports Country Rebel.

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Mary told Fox 4 News that her husband has never stopped fighting, even starting the Randy Travis Foundation which supports victims of strokes and cardiovascular diseases. “I think it was one of the Oak Ridge Boys who said God’s not ready for you and the devil don’t want you,” she told Fox 4 News. “Fortunate to still be here and still fighting. Hope we can give other people hope.”

Travis still cannot speak because of the stroke, but every now and again he can sing a little, which is exactly what he did on stage performing his 2000 hit single “Forever And Ever, Amen.” He wasn’t able to sing lead, but you can listen to him sing the final “amen,” just as he did during the 2016 CMA Awards. Watch the tear-jerking performance in the video above.

(h/t Country Rebel)

Courtney Campbell Courtney is a web editorial fellow for CountryLiving.com and WomansDay.com.

Country Music Legend Randy Travis Still Likes to Play Pranks After Massive Stroke

Country music legend Randy Travis has had to rebuild his life following a massive stroke in 2013. But that hasn’t affected his sense of humor.

“If you walk out a door, he’s probably going to lock it on you,” his wife, Mary, 60, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue. “We make it a point to find something to laugh about every single day. That makes all the difference in the world. Even through the tears sometimes, of sadness and defeat, you smile.”

RELATED: Singer Randy Travis Hasn’t ‘Ever Seen Himself as a Victim’ After Massive Stroke, Says His Wife

Image zoom Mary and Randy Travis Fredrik Broden

Now the singer, who just celebrated his 60th birthday, is reflecting on his life story in his new book, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith and Braving the Storms of Life, out May 14. Working with writer Ken Abraham, Randy signed off on all the stories his loved ones told and helped shape the memoir into a first-person narrative.

The book details all the highs and lows in the singer’s life including his successful music career, during which he won seven Grammy awards, and his struggles with alcohol abuse and anger, including his infamous 2012 arrest for driving while intoxicated — and naked.

“He wanted people to understand that he’s human,” says Mary. “And that they can overcome too.”

RELATED: WATCH: Randy Travis Stuns Hall of Fame Crowd by Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ 3 Years After Stroke

Image zoom Randy Travis Fredrik Broden

In July 2013, Travis suffered a massive stroke after his heart stopped while being hospitalized for viral cardiomyopathy. His long road to recovery included another near-death experience that brought Randy and his wife even closer.

“Every day my prayer was, ‘God, just let me have him back, I don’t care how,’” recalls Mary, who married the singer in 2015.

RELATED: Randy Travis Makes Rare Appearance on Grand Ole Opry Stage to Celebrate His 60th Birthday

Image zoom Mary and Randy Travis Chris Hollo

While he still struggles with speech, Randy has been able to sing — he surprised everyone with a rendition of “Amazing Grace” in 2016 when he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. But he still dreams of fully returning to his music career some day.

“We’re so grateful for just the gift of life — because we got to see how delicate it was,” adds Mary. “As we’ve learned, you never know from day to day. We’ll never give up hope.”

For more from our exclusive interview with Randy and his wife Mary, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

How Randy Travis’ Wife Saved His Life After His Stroke

A heart virus could have killed Randy Travis. A stroke nearly did. But it was a staph infection that led doctors to tell his wife Mary to prepare for the his death.

She couldn’t accept that.

Mary and Randy Travis were not married in July 2013 when a series of horrible medical events happened back to back, forcing the then-54-year-old to be hospitalized for nearly six months and undergo many surgeries and procedures. As described in his new book, Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music Faith and Braving the Storms of Life, and previously to the Tennessean, Travis was in a coma when doctors told the couple he was going to die. She squeezed his hand and asked if he wanted to keep fighting.

Travis mustered the power to squeeze back and a single tear fell down his cheek.

“I knew then he wasn’t ready to quit fighting,” she told the newspaper. ‘I went back and told the doctors, ‘It’s not our choice to decide that. … And I suggest that everybody get on board and do everything they can do to save him.'”

A new doctor and new treatment turned his story around, to the point that within two weeks, they were talking about returning home. The last five-and-a-half years has been constant rehabilitation of different sorts, and Travis has made improvements to the point that he can now say certain words, sing a few songs (his version of “Amazing Grace” at his 2016 Hall of Fame induction was tear-jerking) and walk. That’s a far cry from how he fared upon his release in November 2013, when his vision was blurry, he couldn’t recall what a telephone was for and his speech was very limited.

Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music Faith and Braving the Storms of Life will be released on May 14. Randy and Mary got married in April 2015.

7 Country Stars Who Cheated Death:

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Originally published in the Aug. 18, 2014 issue of Country Weekly magazine.

None of us is promised tomorrow. We plan and prepare like it’s going to happen, but it can all change in a moment. That’s what happened to Randy Travis in July 2013, when a series of escalating health issues sent him to the very edge of mortality. One year later, he’s alive and walking the long road to recovery.

Randy’s fiancé, Mary Davis, remembers the sequence of events vividly. The award-winning singer had worked out for three hours the day before meetings at their home with visitors from Nashville. Randy was preparing to leave on a Canadian tour. “He wasn’t feeling well so I took him to a local ER doctor and they said he had walking pneumonia and they sent him home with some nebulizer and breathing ,” she recalls. “Sunday, we went back because he wasn’t able to breathe at all and that’s pretty much where everything began.”

Doctors discovered he had a viral cardiomyopathy stemming from a respiratory infection. As best anyone could figure later on, the infection that set off the whole chain of events might have something airborne that Randy caught on a hot, dusty movie set in Louisiana a couple weeks before the trouble began.

As ER doctors were treating his respiratory issues, Randy’s heart stopped and flat-lined. He was comatose and on an oxygenation treatment when they flew him to Nashville, where they discovered he had in fact suffered a stroke. Doctors immediately had to perform brain surgery, giving Randy slim (1 to 2 percent, according to Mary) odds of surviving. “They did the brain surgery and Randy, just the way Randy does things, made it through it,” she says, tearfully, searching for the words. “He’s just a miracle.”

He’s more of a miracle than most realize. The news that reached the fans was at times unremittingly bleak, and it seems that is exactly how it was in the hospital. Mary had to face the tough choice of whether to take Randy off life support or keep fighting. “A number of the doctors told me I should go ahead and pull the plug because he wasn’t going to make it through,” she recalls. “I was a little angry because I didn’t feel like they’d given him a fighting chance and I knew there was nothing but fight in Randy Travis.”

Mary walked in Randy’s room where he, still in a coma, was resting. “I sat down beside his bed and I held his hand and I said, ‘Honey, you gotta let me know if you wanna keep fighting.’ He squeezed my hand and a tear fell off the side of his face,” she says. “I walked back to the room where the doctors were and I said, ‘Y’all better give it everything you’ve got because we’re not quitting. I believe that our God is bigger than what we think we can do.”

So fight they did. Randy survived the operation and was officially discharged from the hospital July 31. Assorted subsequent hospital stays lasted through November, delaying the start of a more intense, focused therapy regimen. “We go to outpatient therapy five days a week here in Denton, 30-45 minutes from home. Then we come home and do some more of it,” Mary says, sounding resigned. “They keep reminding us this is his eight-hour-a-day job now. Randy takes it with a smile, and off we go.”

For his part, Randy seems to have committed fully to his therapy program, giving it everything he has. His strong faith has played an important role as well. “Every day he greets with a big ole smile, that Randy Travis infections smile of his. It lets me know all is well with the world,” Mary reveals. “When they ask him to do 10 of whatever at therapy, he’ll do 20. If I put him on the bicycle here at home and say, ‘Do 20 minutes,’ he’ll do 30 or 45.”

From that fierce determination has come increased mobility for Randy, who has made big strides in the relatively short seven months that he has been in therapy. “Each day brings a positive change. He understands everything going on and communicates well,” explains Mary. “In the last eight months, he’s gone from being bedridden to walking with a cane and sometimes even without it. He’s ridden his horse, Preacher. Yesterday, we went out in the pastures to check the fence lines.”

One of the complications of Randy’s stroke was in the form of speech, initially rendering the beloved star unable to talk or sing his songs. While he has yet to return to singing, Randy is still making big steps in communication and speech. “We’re in the phrases stage now so we’ve come a long way,” Mary explains, noting that fluid conversation is still a challenge. “The music, the melodies, the chords and the words are all there. It’s just a matter of putting it all together again.”

It can be a frustrating experience for victims of stroke, who can often fully understand the speech of others but have trouble communicating what they want to say. Randy is learning both verbal and nonverbal ways to express himself, and Mary seems confident that one day he will be fully healed. “The brain is rewiring and learning again new pathways. It takes time,” Mary says. “The human body is such an unexplainable piece of machinery that God made that we can’t recreate. It takes its own time. I believe that he will get there.”

As one of the most important figures in the last 30 years of country music history, Randy has made friends of his fellow stars and amassed a legion of fans as well. Many of those fellow stars have reached out and visited with Randy through the ordeal. “You find friends and support you never knew or thought you had and I guess some support you thought you had that you don’t have,” Mary notes. “It’s an interesting scenario when things go south for you a bit.”

Mary rattles off names like Jamey Johnson, Joe Nichols, Zac Brown, the Oak Ridge Boys and Josh Turner as artists who have checked in, adding that family and close friends have been a critical part of the healing process for Randy. “We couldn’t do without that because that keeps us going,” she says. “There’s, no doubt, daily challenges—physically, emotionally, financially and everything else—but with that incredible support we make it through. Each day adds another link to his independence and one day we believe he’ll be whole again.”

Randy has begun making the occasional public appearance with Mary at his side, include a Neal McCoy benefit event and the widely-covered Dolly Parton show in June. Mary says they’ve also seen George Strait, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in recent months. She wants him to hear the music in hopes that he’ll soon be able to sing and perform.

“There’s nothing more he would rather do than to be back on that stage,” Mary says. “That’s what he loved to do more than anything. Back on that stage, to share his incredible journey that he’s been through. I know he wants to do that in person. That’s certainly his prayer and his goal. I’m just here to support that and do everything we can.”

The fans have been there with support too, and both Mary and Randy are extremely grateful for the outpouring of love. “We’ve gotten boxes and boxes of letters of encouragement from fans,” she says. “When I read him his fan mail, he smiles and sometimes sheds a tear because of the sweet, sweet stories. Just thinking about some of them, it’s kind of bringing a tear to my eye right now because it’s just amazing,” she pauses, her voice catching, “that he can touch so many lives.”

Fans looking for new music can check out the newly-released collection Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am.

For Mary’s part, she is resolved to let things progress and resolve naturally. “It’s an honor to be able to walk beside him on this journey,” she says. “I feel special because of that. It’s a bit different than we had planned, but the landscape is still beautiful. And we’re not gonna stop ‘til we get where we’re going!”

Those harrowing days of Randy’s stay in the hospital are in the past, but they caused a shift in perspective for both him and Mary. It’s one of those thing that is easy to take for granted, until being faced with unfathomable loss. “Every day is special. And we’ve sure gotten a glimpse of how precious life is and how fast it can change and how fast it can be taken away,” Mary says. “When we do get to the other side of it, he’ll have a wonderful testimony.”

And the fans will no doubt be ready to hear it.

New Randy Travis Recordings

Though the future of Randy’s recording career remains somewhat up in the air for now, he’s left us with an incredible body of work to enjoy. On Aug. 19, fans can check out Randy’s Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am, a follow-up to his 2013 edition that paid tribute to some of the singer’s favorite artists.

For this new edition, Randy gave his renditions of Waylon Jennings’ “Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line,” and Vern Gosdin’s “Set ‘Em Up Joe,” among others. Also included is “Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum,” a touching original that Randy recorded as a tribute to his friend George Jones.

Influence Vol. 2: The Man I Am

Buy on: iTunes Amazon Google Play

  1. I’m Moving On
  2. Set ‘Em Up Joe
  3. Are the Good Times Really Over?
  4. Nearly Lose Your Mind
  5. There I’ve Said It Again
  6. That’s the Way Love Goes
  7. Sunday Morning Coming Down
  8. Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me
  9. Mind Your Own Business
  10. Only Daddy That’ll Walk the Line
  11. For the Good Times
  12. California Blues
  13. Tonight I’m Playing Possum (Solo Version)

Randy courtesy Webster PR; Randy & Miranda by Rick Diamond/EB Media; Randy & Neal courtesy Neal McCoy Twitter; Randy & Dolly and Randy & Jamey courtesy Webster PR

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